163 - Mom’s Guide to a Good Divorce - Revised Edition
Sarah Armstrong came back on the show to talk about her new, revised edition of A Mom’s Guide to a Good Divorce. Leh and Todd discuss with Sarah her motivation to update an already great book. Tune in to hear how she included more material and re-organized the book to make it even more helpful than it was before.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome, everyone. I'm Lee Meriwether, and with me is Todd Orston. We are your co-hosts for Divorce Team Radio, sponsored by Meriwether & Tharp. Here, you'll learn about divorce, family law, tips on how to take your marriage to the next level, and tips on how to save your marriage if it's in the middle of a crisis. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at AtlantaDivorceTeam.com, and this show at DivorceTeamRadio.com.
Todd Orston: Well done.
Leh Meriwether: Oh, thank you. My voice is cracking up a little bit. I had the flu this week.
Todd Orston: Oh, I thought you were trying to intimidate me. It was getting very deep and-
Leh Meriwether: I had the flu recently and it's still in chest a little bit. I'm not contagious, though, don't worry.
Todd Orston: I'm not getting any closer than we are already.
Leh Meriwether: Well, Todd...
Todd Orston: Yes?
Leh Meriwether: Can you guess what?
Todd Orston: Can I guess what? That's pretty broad. What?
Leh Meriwether: I'm excited. I can't believe you couldn't guess that.
Todd Orston: I'm happy for you. I'm happy for you.
Leh Meriwether: Well, we're not alone in the studio today.
Todd Orston: I sort of noticed, and it's someone that has been... I don't know why she agreed to come back. Usually, after one, there's a restraining order involved, but yeah, I do see that we have a guest.
Leh Meriwether: Yes, coming back in studio is Sarah Armstrong, the author of The Mom's Guide to a Good Divorce. Now, Sarah, I'm not going to go into all your background, but her day job is she's a partner to a leading global management consulting firm, and she advises clients around the world on agency management. Her work has been recognized as an industry leader, resulting in Sarah being named one of the Ad Aged Women to Watch.
Leh Meriwether: But you can read more about her at www.gooddivorce.guide. Now, Sarah, thanks for coming back.
Sarah Armstrong: Thanks for having me back. Very happy to be here.
Leh Meriwether: I'm glad we didn't scare you away.
Sarah Armstrong: No, not at all.
Todd Orston: And I'm between you and Lee in the studio, so there is a buffer.
Sarah Armstrong: Thank you. Thank you. Yes, haven't had the flu this season.
Todd Orston: You're safe.
Sarah Armstrong: I appreciate the buffer.
Leh Meriwether: But in truth, Sarah's really back because you have revised your book.
Sarah Armstrong: I have. I have.
Leh Meriwether: Newer and better. So, we're going to go into that today. If you haven't listened to Sarah or heard about her book before, you can always go back and listen to episode #117. If this is your first time listening to Sarah, we're going to cover some of the bases: what was started, why she decided to do this book, what inspired it, and what inspired her to update it, because I think it's fantastic. I went through it again, parts of it last night, the updates parts... and I think it's extremely helpful for not just moms going through a divorce, but anybody going through a divorce, and so... well, I'm going to quit babbling.
Todd Orston: No, you won't.
Leh Meriwether: All right, Sarah. So, share with everyone, what inspired you to write this book from the beginning, The Mom's Guide to a Good Divorce?
Sarah Armstrong: Okay. Well, thank you again for having me on for a second time; really happy to be here.
Sarah Armstrong: I actually want to start with just saying, just for the record, I'm not an advocate for divorce. I actually think couples should get married and stay married and live a happy, long life together. Unfortunately, sometimes that doesn't work out as planned, and so, if a couple has decided that they need to go through divorce, then I feel there's a way to do it, especially when children are involved, to make sure that your children's best interests are kept in mind. And so, that's really just an important point.
Sarah Armstrong: And one of the reasons I feel strongly about this is, no one gets married to get divorced, right? No one also gets divorced for positive reasons, unfortunately. And then children are involved, children do not get to decide that their parents are going to go through a divorce, but their lives are the most significantly impacted by the decision that's been made and the decisions that are made throughout the divorce, and even after the divorce.
Sarah Armstrong: So, what led me to actually writing this book is, I went through a divorce. My daughter was seven, and this was 10 years ago, and I had watched a lot of ugly divorces when I was growing up, although my parents had been married for over 50 years and are a true picture of partnership... but I had seen those divorces, and I saw what it did to the families and the children. And when it came to the situation in my life where this might be that path I was going down, I decided that I didn't want to do it that way, and I talked to my then soon-to-be-ex-husband, and said, "There has to be a better way to do this where we can end up in the other end of this and all be in a better place and hopefully happy with our respective lives, and that most importantly, Grace, our daughter, can be happy."
Sarah Armstrong: And so, that really led me down this path of working through what that looked like. The interesting thing is, after I got divorced, I had a number of girlfriends who went through their divorces, or were going through their divorces and would come to me, and say, "Would you help me with my divorce and help me think through this?" And so, I'd say, "Sure, I'll help you as much as I can." And at the end of each of their situations, they would say, "You really need to write this down." And I said, "What do you mean?" They said, "All the guidance you've been giving me, it's really helpful." And they would say, "You should write a book."
Sarah Armstrong: Well, I don't consider myself a writer. As you mentioned, I'm in the corporate and business world, and being an author was not a goal of mine. But I thought to myself, "Maybe someday," and I was actually at a business dinner in Latin America, and a colleague of mine turned to me and he said, "Sarah, you're so happy." And I said, "Yeah." He said, "But you're divorced." I said, "Getting divorced isn't a death sentence." I said, "My ex-husband and I decided to no longer be married to each other." And I said, "I'm happy, my ex-husband's happy. Grace is very happy." And I said, "It is possible."
Sarah Armstrong: And I mentioned to him that my friends had been suggesting that I write a book, and he said, "You really should." So the next morning, I got on my flight and I opened my laptop, and I started writing. And my first line was, "This book has been written by a girl who never, ever thought she would get a divorce, who got a divorce, and what she learned along the way." And that was the first line, and it's the first line in the book in the printed version... and I wrote for about a year... and primarily on Delta, by the way. I think very clearly at 30,000 feet. I think it's the recycled air. I'm not sure.
Sarah Armstrong: But I really wrote the book, and went back to my girlfriends, asked them for their feedback on it, and ended up this book now that's in front of you.
Todd Orston: That's amazing.
Leh Meriwether: Now, you tell a story about a comment your daughter made that blew you away, and I think it's really telling how well... I know this sounds kind of weird... but how well you and your ex-husband handled the divorce. Can you share that story with everyone?
Sarah Armstrong: Yeah, happy to. So, Grace... she was eight years old. We were standing in CVS, so it's a year after our divorce, and there is a picture on a People Magazine cover of a celebrity couple getting a divorce. And she turns to me and she goes, "Mommy, is that a good divorce or a bad divorce?"
Sarah Armstrong: And I stopped, and I said, "Grace, I don't know. What's the difference between a good divorce and a bad divorce?" She said, "Well, a good divorce is when the mommy and daddy are nice to each other, like you and Daddy, and a bad divorce is when the mommy and daddy scream and fight and yell at each other."
Sarah Armstrong: And I stopped, and I thought, "Wow," and I said, "Well, Grace, it's hard to know from a magazine cover what that divorce is," but I just thought it was amazing that she could categorize our divorce as a good divorce, and as I walked out to the parking lot holding her hand, I thought, "Whatever my ex-husband and I were doing a year into our divorce, we must be doing something well around the right path for her to think that way, and to really categorize it, and to coin the phrase that then, we now use."
Leh Meriwether: So I would definitely suggest that if you are about to go through a divorce, or even if you are in the middle of a divorce, and that's the comment you want to hear from your kids... I mean, obviously, you don't want to have to have them talk about divorce, but if you were to hear their comment about what they went through, and that's the comment you want them to hear, you need to go out and get this book.
Leh Meriwether: Now, where can they find the book?
Sarah Armstrong: You can find the book online at Amazon or BarnesAndNoble.com, but also it is, obviously, in stores as well, and it's also available on Kindle, Nook, iBooks... because I do appreciate that some people might not want to walk around with this book in their hand, and I completely respect that. So, if you are sitting in a carpool line, or you're late night in bed and you want to read it on one of your devices... phone, iPad, whatever the case may be... it's available.
Leh Meriwether: Just don't read while you're sitting in the car or at the red light, which I saw this morning.
Sarah Armstrong: No, no.
Leh Meriwether: I'm not sure what they were reading, but it looked like they were reading a book, but anyways...
Sarah Armstrong: Yes, yes.
Leh Meriwether: I don't want to talk about my troubles this morning. All right.
Todd Orston: No, but I mean, everything that you're saying... I can, I think, speak for both of us. I mean, we agree. There really is the difference between a good divorce and a bad divorce, and even though we're divorce attorneys, we are not fans of divorce.
Todd Orston: But people lose sight, especially when there are children involved... they lose sight of the fact that they could have a good divorce. It's unfortunate that they're going through the process, but they lose sight of that, and then all of a sudden, the victims are oftentimes, if not every time, the children. So, I mean, what you're saying and what you wrote about it is so powerful. I really... and I'm not saying this just because you're a guest on the show... I hope everybody who has to go through this process picks up your book, because it really is a powerful message.
Sarah Armstrong: Thank you. Thank you for that. And it's interesting... when you become parents, and you decide that you need to then potentially go through a divorce, the thing is... you don't want your kids to be collateral damage, right? And if you don't think about this in a conscious way, there's potential for that. And so, what I say, we want to raise our kids in the healthiest and happiest and safest environment, and that's a commitment we make when we bring them into this world.
Sarah Armstrong: But then, I say we cover the plugs. We put bike helmets on them. We feed them organic milk. We do all these things to make sure. And then, if you are not careful, you can place them in a toxic environment with the divorce, and that toxic environment can be for a long time if you don't make a conscious choice to figure out how to get them out of that as quickly as possible, and hopefully not have it at all. And so, that's really, I think, a goal of this book, is the thought process of, how do you get to a better place and allow that not to be the reality?
Leh Meriwether: And when we come back, we're going to talk about why she revised her book, and we're going to get into just some of the great details.
Leh Meriwether: I just wanted to let you know if you ever wanted to listen to this show live, you can listen at 1:00 AM on Monday mornings on WSB... so you can always check us out there, as well.
Todd Orston: Better than counting sheep, I guess, right?
Leh Meriwether: That's right.
Todd Orston: You can turn on the show and we'll help you fall asleep.
Leh Meriwether: There you go.
Todd Orston: I'll talk very softly.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome back, everyone. This is Lee and Todd, and you're listening to Divorce Team Radio. If you want to listen to previous shows, you can go back and listen at DivorceTeamRadio.com.
Leh Meriwether: Well, Todd and I aren't alone in studio today, thank goodness. We actually have an author with us, Sarah Armstrong. She is the author of The Mom's Guide to a Good Divorce.
Leh Meriwether: Now, not only is she an author of that book, she's the author of the revised edition, because she has recently revised her book... I'm not sure why. I'm looking forward to hearing the explanation because I thought the first version was great. I actually have gone through and read the new version, and you've added some great stuff to it, but I don't want to... what prompted you to revise this book?
Sarah Armstrong: Well, great question. It's interesting, because when you write a book and you put it out into the world, it's out there. And I wrote this book at kind of the five year mark, post-divorce, and after I had written it, there were things that would come up that I'd be like, "Oh, that would be good to be in the book," and my girlfriends would mention something in their experiences, and I started writing these down over the course of time... again, never thinking maybe that I would do anything with it, but I just didn't want to lose the thoughts.
Sarah Armstrong: And I stepped back at one point about a year ago and said, "You know what? There's quite a bit here. I think maybe I'll go back and see if I can add all these and re-release a new edition." And so, that's what I did. On top of that, just some of the discussions I've had over the years as I've shared the fact that I've written this book, and that the term good divorce, and just the perception and the reaction I get from that has been interesting... and so, I've also thought about that there's not enough conversation in society about the topic of a good divorce, the concept of a good divorce.
Sarah Armstrong: And so, one of my goals with this second version and just really re-engaging everyone in the fact that it's out there is to help change the societal perception and the social norm that a bitter divorce is the only way to do it... and that, actually, there is another way, and that a good divorce is actually an attainable outcome if you approach things in a very specific way.
Todd Orston: What's amazing is people call Leh and I, and our firm and other attorneys, to learn about the legal aspects of a divorce. And when I talk to friends and family, and I usually will say to them, what I do is part... not truly therapy... but it is, to some degree, therapeutic. We are a counselor, not just an attorney. So, they're coming to us and they are learning about the legal aspects, but they do little too often to understand the emotional side of things, and that's where I know... I believe I can speak for Leh, as well... why it's so powerful, because you're tapping into that emotional side... how to control the emotion and focus on what's truly important. Not to say the legal aspects aren't important, but your children and your sanity and all of that... your emotional wellbeing.
Sarah Armstrong: Yes. Yeah, no, it's so important. I think the interesting thing is... I talk about the discussions you need to have and the decisions you need to make that are focused on your children during this process, and it is a combination of, you're already parenting them and you're co-parenting, but then it's a matter... or hopefully you're co-parenting with your ex-spouse... but it's a matter of how do you go through this. And to your point on the emotion... so, there's times when you actually need to think about, do you need to set aside the discussions until your emotions are where they need to be, and get through that emotional phase? Because that can absolutely impact some of the outcomes of these discussions that are so important in terms of decisions you're making about your children.
Todd Orston: And I can also tell you, I think that's probably the hardest thing anybody could do in a divorce, because putting emotion aside, or just tamping it down... putting the anger and the frustration and all those emotions that you're feeling... putting those to the side so that you could focus on what really is important is probably the toughest thing somebody going through a divorce can do.
Leh Meriwether: And I'll ask you this real quick, because there are people out there that are right... they're like, "That's right, but I can't get him to do this." Well, maybe emotionally, he's not ready, because we see this all the time. You have one person that's been thinking about a divorce for three years, and they never say anything to their spouse, drop it on them, and this person... and there's no gender issue here; I see it both in men and women... but the other person, emotionally, is not where you are. So, you may be emotionally ready to have the conversation, but you've got to be patient and let the other person get there as well.
Sarah Armstrong: Yes.
Leh Meriwether: So, I mean, that's some great advice, and just remember, it's a two-way street. It's not just you. And you can only control you.
Sarah Armstrong: Yes, no, it's so important. I mean, the two things you said: one is, sometimes people need to catch up to the other person; no question about it. And the other is that from a... engaging in this conversation and the co-parenting decisions you need to make together, hopefully... sometimes even those decisions, because of where their mindset is versus yours, may not be in the same place... so you might need to set some of those decisions in the course of the divorce, and say, "You know what? We're going to touch that one later, because we're not in a place where we can have a productive conversation on this."
Leh Meriwether: Here's the great thing if they have bought your book, and let's say the other person is not emotionally ready. That doesn't keep you from going through the book, because... obviously, I've got the book in my hands and radio can't pick it up... not yet, anyways... but there's a lot of... not just sort of 50,000-foot-view advice. There's a lot of very fine-tuned, specific detail advice, practical advice, in here, and you can start working on this yourself knowing this may not be the ultimate outcome.
Leh Meriwether: But I mean, you've got things about moving and family pets, and overnight dates, and leaving children with other adults, and leaving children by themselves, and what to do with cars. You've thought through all of these things.
Todd Orston: The way I look at it is if you don't start with improving yourself, you really can't sit there and have expectations that your significant other, or not so significant, at that point, is going to fix themselves or be able to work on themself, because you're still so caught up in the emotion. Fix yourself. Work on yourself, and then you'll be in a better place to have, hopefully, a calmer conversation.
Sarah Armstrong: Agreed. And, to both your points, the logistics of life, Leh, are so significant just in general when you're raising children, and then you add divorce onto it, and the complexity of that becomes really challenging to think through, and there's a lot there.
Sarah Armstrong: And so, then, in terms of your point of fixing yourself, one of the new topics in this version is about developing a compartmentalization muscle. And this is something actually... we all talk about building our core muscles, going to yoga or Pilates and making sure you have those strong core, abdominal muscles. This is really the strongest muscle that I think many of us need to build in our brains, and our ability to figure out when to need to be emotional and allow those emotions... you do need to allow the emotions to come out and deal with them, because you don't want them to be something that are so internalized that they cause other issues.
Sarah Armstrong: But if you build the compartmentalization muscle, and you decide when you need to put things away and put them aside so that you can move forward and you can look ahead, both for yourself and for your children, it's one of the most important muscles I think that we need to build.
Todd Orston: Yeah, I quit my last three gyms because I couldn't find that machinery. I was trying to work on that, and it's just... I couldn't find the machines.
Sarah Armstrong: It is a tough one. It's a tough one, but it is a life skill. It's actually something I think we need in all aspects of our life, but when you're going through a divorce, it is tested more than any other... and because being divorced is a lifelong process, because it's an action that you go through, it is a process you go through... the question is, can you move past it over the course of time? And having a strong compartmentalization muscle is potentially one of those elements or muscles that helps you do that.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. What other aspects of divorce do you feel are important to think through when couples are contemplating or preparing for the inevitable?
Sarah Armstrong: I think... and I shared this story last time, but it's a really important one, so I think I'll share it again... and it's the realization that I had when I was with my ex-husband and we're sitting down with a child specialist, and we were going to talk about the fact that we were going to through this divorce and the impact it would have on Grace.
Sarah Armstrong: And the child specialist turned to me and he said, "Sarah, do you travel?" And I said, "Yeah, I travel internationally for my job," and he turned to my ex-husband and he said, "Do you travel?" And he said, "Yes, I travel domestically." And he said, "Well, Grace is about to become a professional traveler for the next 11 years of her life. She will travel back and forth between your two homes every week," and I burst into tears, because the picture of that and the reality of that was sinking in for me, in terms of what that meant to her day-to-day life.
Sarah Armstrong: I mean, we get to stay in our homes as parents in most of the situations; and so, it's really the impact of her life and what that meant. So, in thinking through how to manage the logistics and the day-to-day of that was something that we really tried to think through, and really, one of the basics was making sure she had the basics in terms of clothing and anything that was important in her life in the two homes, so that she did not have to really pack a bag. Minimizing the number of times she had to "pack a bag" to go to Dad's house was one of my goals.
Todd Orston: Well, your travel for work is a choice.
Sarah Armstrong: Absolutely. Absolutely. And she was not choosing to now... literally, to become... I say, prepare the professional traveler... that is what she was going to become.
Leh Meriwether: Another of the things I noticed in the book was... you added a few things... some really good suggestions on how to set it up for your daughter going back and forth, or anybody's child going back and forth; some great suggestions, practical suggestions. So, basically, no matter whether she was at Dad's home or Mom's home, she felt like she was home, but that took a coordinated effort on both your parts, and when we get back, we're going to talk about some of the suggestions that Sarah had.
Todd Orston: Hey everyone, you're listening to our podcast, but you have alternatives. You have choices. You can listen to us live also at 1:00 AM on Monday morning on WSB.
Leh Meriwether: If you're enjoying the show, we would love it if you could go rate us in iTunes or wherever you may be listening to it. Give us a five star rating and tell us why you like the show.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome back, everyone. This is Leh and Todd, and you're listening to Divorce Team Radio, sponsored by Meriwether & Tharp. If you missed the first two episodes, you can always go back and listen to them at DivorceTeamRadio.com.
Leh Meriwether: Well, thankfully, it's not just Todd and I in studio today. We have a guest, Sarah Armstrong. She is the author of The Mom's Guide to a Good Divorce. Sarah, thanks for sticking around.
Sarah Armstrong: Very happy to be here. Thank you.
Leh Meriwether: You must be a glutton for punishment to put up with us for this much.
Todd Orston: I get the medal, all right?
Leh Meriwether: You get the medal.
Leh Meriwether: Well, when we left off, we were talking about... you've got so much practical advice in this book; not just good general advice, but then you can get very practical. And one of the other things I liked about this book, and it looks like you've kept it for your update, was you leave spaces at the bottom of the page. So, it would actually be a shorter book if you had not of done that. So, why is that you left spaces at the end of each... because most topics are like half a page, or maybe a page and a half, and you then you leave blank spaces. Why do you do that?
Sarah Armstrong: That's a great question. So actually, when I was going through my divorce, I had some of my friends give me books on divorce, and I'd open them, and they were so dense and there was so much packed into these books... I literally would open them, close them, and set them aside. I did not read any of them.
Todd Orston: You were intimidated.
Sarah Armstrong: Yeah, it was just too much. I mean, with all that you're thinking about when you're going through a divorce... I couldn't process the information that way.
Sarah Armstrong: So when I decided to write this book, I decided to outline it in bite-sized pieces... so, a topic per page, and to your point, sometimes it's a paragraph, sometimes it's a full page... maybe a topic goes to two pages, just a few. But the goal was, for someone going through a divorce... if they wanted to open the book and read one or two topics, and then close the book and set it aside until the next they were ready... that they'd have the ability to do that. Also, the white space is just space to think, to reflect, to take notes if you have it in the paperback version.
Sarah Armstrong: And so... it was interesting, though, when I was publishing the book... the editor was saying to me, "Well, you can put more topics on a page." I'm like, "No, no, the goal is to give the reader the space and the time to reflect. I don't want to." She goes, "But you're wasting so much paper," and I said, "Well, I'll pay off the environment another way, but"...
Todd Orston: Carbon credits.
Sarah Armstrong: "I really want this book design to be designed this way." And I've actually gotten feedback on this from readers, that it is very helpful in terms of those bite-sized pieces of advice.
Todd Orston: Well, for me, it is less intimidating. Opening up a page and it's a half page... I'm more willing to say, "Well, I can commit to the half page or that one paragraph," and then you get through that one, you turn to the next page, it's like, "Huh, that one is short as well." So, I think getting engagement from readers... I think it's brilliant.
Sarah Armstrong: Well, thank you. And when you think about when you're reading this, you might only have a couple minutes, and then your children are calling, or you need to go do something. And so, I always felt like if you are reading a book, sometimes you have to go re-read a couple things to remember where you are... here, you can fly through a page and be like, "Well, this is where I left off."
Todd Orston: Well, and that is a problem, because opening up a book and seeing that I'm going to learn a point, and this chapter is 18 pages long, so I don't know if I'm going to commit. I mean, at this point, I need more time to sit down and learn whatever I'm going to learn from this material.
Todd Orston: But here, a half page, maybe three quarters of a page, and I'm going to be taught this lesson? That's great.
Sarah Armstrong: Yeah, thank you.
Sarah Armstrong: And the other thing is, the book is set out in phases, so depending on where you are in your divorce, there's preparing for the change, during the change, and post-the change. So, in all fairness, many people may not read the book cover to cover anyways because of where you are in your process and the fact that you're not ready to think about post-divorce when you're starting to prepare it.
Sarah Armstrong: So, unless someone really wants to just understand the full process and all the details that are included, I actually think it's better to take it in those bite-sized pieces and read it when you're ready, to reflect on that topic and think about what it means to you.
Leh Meriwether: In your revised edition, do you share any new key learnings in your book for ways parents can lessen the impact of divorce on children?
Sarah Armstrong: Yes. One of the topics that I realized I had touched on in the first version, but had not expanded on... I talked about how holidays are challenging, even in a good divorce, in fairness. So, I talked about that, but then in this next version, I really talked about managing holiday logistics, because even in a married family where the parents are together, there's lots of logistics to be managed when you're thinking about extended family. When you go into a divorce situation, you now have all sorts of other considerations of how you're going to manage the logistics of holidays, and not just the Christmas or Hanukkah, but Easter... where does the Easter Bunny show up? Or Halloween... who is taking your children trick or treating, and who is going to give out the candy at a house?
Sarah Armstrong: Again, these little day-to-day things that you need to think through, and you don't have to think through them all at once, but I just wanted to register the fact that those are important times and moments in your children's lives, and if what they're going to remember is one of two things: either they had fun at Halloween or Easter or Christmas or Hanukkah, or their parents were bickering about who was doing what to make sure that someone was taking them trick or treating.
Sarah Armstrong: So, it's just... those are these moments that I think are really important to think about, and then linked to that is the gift-giving aspect of... how do you help your children, knowing that they want to potentially give gifts to your ex-spouse? How do you manage that? If they're young, do you help them think about it, and then help them get a gift that they need to wrap, and do you help them wrap that gift for your ex-spouse?
Todd Orston: And it can't be coal, or... that's not what we're saying.
Sarah Armstrong: No, not coal, not coal. But these are the realities of a young child's life, is their parent's birthday or a holiday that they would normally do something, and who is going to help them do that?
Sarah Armstrong: Now, if you, emotionally, cannot fathom going and buying a gift for your ex-spouse with your child to give to them, then ask a family member, or if you have a nanny or someone in their life, or a friend of yours that says, "Can you go do this with my children, because I'm not capable of it, but I don't want this to be something that is not part of their world?" They need to know what gift-giving is like to their family members and to their parents.
Leh Meriwether: I think it just goes to help... if you're having a tough time stomaching that, or just talking to those out there that may have been in a divorce... I don't want to say suck it up, because that just sounds too harsh, but... you're not doing it for you. It's not for you. It's for the relationship, your relationship with your ex; it's for your relationship of your child with your ex. And that olive branch... it may not have a huge impact today, but it could have, if you did that consistently for a couple years... could have a massive impact two years from now.
Sarah Armstrong: Absolutely.
Leh Meriwether: If you were able to sort of stomach... compartmentalize, going back to what you were talking about... compartmentalize that whatever emotion is holding you back, and say, "You know what? I need to do this for my children. I need to do this for the relationship, maybe not for today or tomorrow, but maybe for the wedding that's coming up around the corner 10 years from now, maybe for when the grandkids come visit me 15 years from now."
Leh Meriwether: So, that's that compartmentalization... that's why that's so important to come back and do that.
Todd Orston: Yeah, just very, very quickly... to be clear, though, obviously, every case if different. There could have been very bad behavior.
Sarah Armstrong: Absolutely.
Todd Orston: And I'm not speaking for you, of course.
Sarah Armstrong: No, it's good.
Todd Orston: But obviously, if you're not comfortable... going back to what you were saying... there are other ways. If that parent was a bad spouse, and really bad stuff happened, and you can't stomach the thought of doing something nice, I get it.
Sarah Armstrong: Absolutely.
Todd Orston: You were mistreated, you were whatever... but at that point, you need to put that aside and think, is there a third party that can help this? Because that bad spouse is still hopefully going to be a good parent.
Sarah Armstrong: Right, and that's the hope. I mean, I do think sometimes individuals who aren't meant to be married to other individuals can still be great parents.
Todd Orston: That's right.
Sarah Armstrong: And regardless of what drove you two to decide not to be married to each other, and sometimes it is, as I mentioned earlier, not positive reasons... the looking forward and looking ahead to what you want this relationship and co-parenting relationship to be... to be able to do things that are in the best interests of your children is your real challenge, but it's a challenge I think we can't afford not to take on.
Todd Orston: I agree.
Sarah Armstrong: And as a society, that's where I just think we have to step back and say, "What can we do within the parameters of what we're capable of?" And I also talk about building a support network, because sometimes when you're not capable, you need to say to a good friend or a family member, or a teacher or a coach or whoever it is, "Hey, can you help me with this? This is just something I'm needing help for," and being able to ask for help is something that also during a divorce... there's things that I will now ask for help with that I would never have asked for help when I was married, because I would have thought, "Oh, I would never someone bother someone for that."
Sarah Armstrong: But you need to know that that support network is really important to live our lives.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah, I wasn't trying to be... that's why I didn't want to say suck it up, because that sounds-
Todd Orston: No, sure. No, I get it.
Leh Meriwether: There are some people that have... I'm actually not speaking to those. If you've been a victim of family violence or something like that... I mean, those are exceptional circumstances, and that's where you need to actually focus, I think... and you talk about in your book... focus on you and getting better, because there's going to be a lot of emotional damage as a result of that kind of relationship, and you need to focus on you. And you talk about, that was one of the things you added in here... like the post-divorce, you broke it up for the children and for you, because a lot of people will forget that.
Sarah Armstrong: Yeah.
Leh Meriwether: All right, well, up next, I know I've been teasing it, but let's get some practical... there's one of my favorite stories in here. I know we talked about it last time you were on. I want to go over it again because something... it sounds so simple, but it can have a massive impact on a child's life and their memories. And Todd and I talked not too long ago about how... when you look back to your childhood, some of the most impactful things are events and memories of happy times, not necessarily gifts.
Leh Meriwether: I just wanted to let you know that if you ever wanted to listen to this show live, you can listen at 1:00 AM on Monday mornings on WSB, so you can always check us out there, as well.
Todd Orston: Better than like counting sheep, I guess, right?
Leh Meriwether: That's right.
Todd Orston: You can turn on the show and we'll help you fall asleep.
Leh Meriwether: There you go.
Todd Orston: I'll talk very softly.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome back, everyone. This is Leh Meriwether, and with me is Todd Orston. You're listening to Divorce Team Radio, sponsored by Meriwether & Tharp. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at DivorceTeamRadio.com.
Leh Meriwether: Well, today, we have Sarah Armstrong in studio with us, and she is talking about her revised book, The Mom's Guide to a Good Divorce. And we went into a lot more specifics in the book in episode #117; definitely go back and check this out. We've been focusing more on this show on what you've added to the book... although I do want to go back to a story.
Leh Meriwether: So if you're listening to this first time, this is one of my favorite things, just because it was this little nuanced piece of advice in the book that I just thought was fantastic, and it's an example of what other little nuanced suggestions that you have. So, can you share with the audience what you did when it came to the family photos?
Sarah Armstrong: Yes.
Sarah Armstrong: So, one of the things when you go through a divorce, and you're having to divide up your family environment... where you're going to live, and where is the couch going to go, and where's that piece of art and these family photos going to go? And so, we had a hallway of black and white family photos that was my family and my ex-husband's family, and they were all interspersed with each other.
Sarah Armstrong: And I realized that I wanted to give my ex-husband his family photos. But when I thought about it, I thought, "Well, I need to replace them with something, because just to take them off the wall would leave open spots." So what I did is I made it a bit of a project, and on top of everything else you're going through a divorce, this was one of those, I'm like, "Okay, this is going to take some time." But I found other photos, got copies made, got new frames, and then on a Saturday, Grace... again, she was seven years old; I sent her down the street to go to a playdate. So she went down the street and I took the photos of my ex-husband's family down, put them aside, put new photos up, and then everything was kind of back in place.
Sarah Armstrong: And Grace came home a couple hours later, and I'm in the kitchen, and she yells from the hallway, "Hey, Mommy!" And I said, "What's that, Grace?" She said, "The wall has changed." And I stopped, and I said, "Well, what's changed?" She goes, "There's more pictures of me up there. It looks great." And then she ran upstairs to her room. And I took a big, deep breath and thought, "Phew! That could have gone one of two ways."
Sarah Armstrong: And the interesting reflection I've had with the story is, if I had not taken the time to get copies of the pictures, frames, and put them up with her not around, and maybe just took the frames down to give to my ex-husband, and left those little hangers with those blank spots on the hallway... that would have been a memory that Grace would have had of the divorce, of the fact that, "My Mommy took all my Daddy's family photos off the wall, and she left those little hangers on the wall," and it would have been an example of how her world was being pulled apart.
Sarah Armstrong: And it's just one of those things... again, these are these small things. When you think it's family photos on a wall, but it's thinking about the impact of what you children are noticing, and the fact that she noticed that those had changed... in a hallway she runs up and down 50 times a day, and that I thought it would have been wallpaper for her... and that she noticed her shows you how much your children do notice their environment. They do notice what's moved or changed. You have to go through these changes when you go through divorce; nothing's going to stay exactly as it is. But when you do, how do you manage those changes?
Todd Orston: It's small things like that. You're calling it small; I'm sure the effort was not small.
Sarah Armstrong: It was quite a project.
Todd Orston: But that can have huge ramifications and effect... I mean, instead of erasing him and his family, you were focusing more on your daughter, and so, instead of seeing blanks on the wall, spots where there was a picture, now it's just more of you, and that's a positive rather than a negative. Again, it's little things like that that, you're right, people don't think about it, and why books like this are so powerful... because you're so caught up in the emotion. I'm not speaking for you, but you must have found yourself at a point where you were able to put that anger aside and focus on things that would really benefit your daughter and you, and most people can't do that.
Sarah Armstrong: Well, and it does, it takes both the emotional effort to do that, but also I just kept on saying, "What is best for Grace through this whole process?" And even on the photo [inaudible 00:38:26], in her room, there were family photos; those all stayed in place, and they're still there to this day. She has both sides of her family in this... I like pictures; obviously, I like photos... but you go in her room, and her dad and her grandparents, and her aunts and uncles from her father's side are there, because that's her room and that's her family.
Sarah Armstrong: And so, do I walk in and glance at it? Yeah. Does it register for me at this point? No, because it's been there for so long, and maybe it's more wallpaper for me. But I think it's really important that for her, those things stayed.
Sarah Armstrong: But going back to your point in the emotion... one of the things, and Leh, you mentioned that the phase of my book that's newer in this edition is really focusing on what you, as a parent, are going through, and specifically, moms... and I had mentioned in my earlier version recovering from a divorce hangover while still driving carpool every morning, which is a reality. I mean, it is a hangover, and you have to kind of figure out how you get over that hangover and move forward. And so, there's a whole new section in the book that really speaks to topics like self-care, taking care of yourself, both physically, emotionally... going to therapy and making sure you're... your friends can be your therapists, but you know therapists are there for a reason, and I'm a big believer that both for your children and yourself, that going through therapy is important at this phase of life.
Sarah Armstrong: There's also just taking time to grieve, and grieve the end of your marriage. I mean, that was a picture that's no longer going to be the picture that you're living with, and that was something I had to really come to terms with, this picture of a happy family and all that comes with it. And so, when we went through this, I decided, "You know what? We're going to create a different picture, and we're going to focus on what we can do that makes our lives positive moving forward."
Sarah Armstrong: And I mentioned earlier, divorce does not need to be a scarlet letter. It is a process you go through, but it should not define your happiness, your children's happiness, your ex-spouse's happiness for the long-term. I mean, it doesn't have to be that way, but it does take a lot of conscious thought and patience and-
Todd Orston: And help from others.
Sarah Armstrong: Yeah, a lot.
Leh Meriwether: It goes back to the... what do they tell you when you're on the airplane? When the oxygen masks drop, put yours on first and then put on your child's, and that's not just... I mean, that's not just good advice on the airplane, that's good advice holistically.
Sarah Armstrong: Yes. And there's something about being able to look ahead, that when you're in a divorce, it's hard to do. So it's really not until post-divorce that I talk about... what's your next chapter? Write that next chapter. Think about it. Envision what you want your life to look like, and it's hard to do that when you're in the midst of all of this. You really have to get through it and allow yourself the time to do that.
Sarah Armstrong: But one of the things that I think is important as a parent... and this is general parenting advice more than specific to a divorce, but it really comes into play here, is... the things your children are going to remember are travel traditions and special moments. And so, if as you think about your next chapter, you can think about what do you want to expose your children... now, by the way, travel could be going to the next town, or it could be getting on a plane... but how do you expose them to new places and new memories that way? How do you think about the traditions of your holidays and things, and what you want them to be moving forward?
Sarah Armstrong: And then special moments... what are those special moments? And making sure that you're not so focused on what happened in the past that you can't enjoy a special moment that happens today. I mean, I think that's... again, because you can be in a certain mindspace, that some of those special moments may be lost on you during a divorce because you have so many different emotions going on, but how, as you get through it, do you start to look and really appreciate those day-to-day moments that are there?
Leh Meriwether: And correct me if I'm wrong, that's one of the things that you added in there, about being in the moment for your kids?
Sarah Armstrong: Yes.
Leh Meriwether: Okay, good, [crosstalk 00:42:26].
Sarah Armstrong: No, I did, and actually, I added it in two places from two different perspectives. One is as you're preparing for a divorce and you're in that early stages... being present with your children then is so important, because they're going to be reading every signal of what's going on, so when you are with them, trying to be as present as possible... but then after divorce, as you're trying to manage a new way of living as a single parent, and all that comes with that.
Sarah Armstrong: Those moments where it's you and your children, and we put aside or electronics, and we really focus on what we can do with them? That special time is really important, and being very present is a fundamental in, I think, life in general, but definitely when you're going through a divorce.
Leh Meriwether: And it's creating those moments of impact, and some people will confuse that by, "Well, we need to go do something really fancy, like Disney on Ice," or some sort of grand event that costs lots of money, and you've just gone through a divorce... that's cost a lot of money. You don't even make those suggestions in the book; it was just... just being present for dinner.
Sarah Armstrong: Yes.
Leh Meriwether: I think that was in your book, right?
Sarah Armstrong: Yeah, present for dinner. Even just Grace and I now have... Friday night is kind of our movie night, where we kind of alternate; she gets to pick a movie one week; I get to expose her to maybe a good movie from the '80s, whatever the case is; but it's about just spending really quality time together, as the new normal of what our family looks like.
Leh Meriwether: Well, unfortunately, we're just about out of time. Real quick, how can people find more about you and this great book?
Sarah Armstrong: Thanks. So, if you go to www.gooddivorce.guide, that's my website. It has background on, again, why I wrote the book. You can buy the book from the website, or you can go to Amazon or Barnes and Noble, and it is available on iBook, Kindle and Nook if you'd rather read it on a device versus in paperback.
Leh Meriwether: Well, I would definitely recommend anybody that's listening to this show that may be getting ready to go through a divorce, or even if you're in the middle of a divorce... and I know you wrote it for moms, but you've said before, it's just as great for dads; if anything, it can give you the perspective of what a mom might be thinking. You definitely need to get this book, everyone.
Leh Meriwether: Thanks so much for listening.